Congress

DOJ attorney in census citizenship dispute to leave department

John Gore ‘plans to spend time with family before deciding his next steps after DOJ’

Principal Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John Gore speaks at the Justice Department September 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gore has left the department, a person familiar with the decision confirmed Friday. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

The Justice Department official at the center of the push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census has left the department, a person familiar with the decision confirmed Friday.

John Gore, who served as the Civil Rights Division’s principal assistant attorney general, authored a letter on enforcement of the Voting Rights Act that the Commerce Department used to justify adding a citizenship question to the census.

[Citizenship question dropped from the 2020 census]

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. later wrote in a 5-4 opinion blocking the citizenship question that the rationale provided by the government was “contrived” and a “distraction” in the case.

Gore “plans to spend time with family before deciding his next steps after DOJ,” said the person familiar with his departure, which was voluntary.

Gore has factored into the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s escalating struggle with the administration to obtain records related to the citizenship question. In April, he defied a committee subpoena for his testimony after a row over whether department counsel could be present for the deposition.

The committee also cited that episode in its report recommending contempt of Congress for Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, which the House passed last month.

Republicans have argued that Democrats’ demands in the probe, like the incident with Gore, have gone beyond Congress’ oversight responsibilities.

Challengers to the citizenship question have included Gore’s conduct in a motion for sanctions against the DOJ in litigation in a New York federal court. They have alleged that Gore and others hid the involvement of the late Republican redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller in the formation of the citizenship question.

Hofeller, challengers say, funneled the question to the Commerce Department, intending to use it to draw congressional maps based on citizenship rather than population.

Gore and the Trump administration have pushed back on that argument in court. In a deposition filed last week, Gore said he never met Hofeller and rejected the idea that an outside adviser had served as a basis for the Justice Department request.

The Commerce Department and DOJ have rejected those allegations, arguing in court papers that the claims “border on frivolous” and rely on speculation rather than hard evidence.

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